Year Inducted: 1939 (BBWAA, ballot #4, 207/274)
There are some players that live and die by their batting averages. They must because they don’t draw many walks and don’t hit for power, so if they don’t have high batting averages they don’t produce much value. Ichiro is the modern example, and before this season his shortcomings were much more evident. Before him, there was Tony Gwynn, who hit for a high average basically every year. Back in the Harmon Killebrew post, as well as the Hughie Jennings post, the value of batting average as a stat was criticized. And, that still is true, but it is fair to point out when a player consistently puts up a high average and deserves to be inducted. And, back before Gwynn and Ichiro made their livings on batting average, there was Wee Willie Keeler.
Year Inducted: 1971 (Veterans Committee)
There are some players that always stand the best of time. If the names of Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb or Tris Speaker were dropped in most baseball circles, everyone involved would know who they are and why they are important. Some players don’t have that staying power, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are themselves great players. Some, like today’s player Jake Beckley, get inducted into the Hall of Fame long after their deaths, and the common thought when they get inducted is “Who was this guy?” Thankfully that gets lessened some in this age of information, but back when Beckley finally gained induction, many people didn’t have that luxury and his selection was initially met with confusion. However, when people actually looked at the information, they saw someone that was truly worthy of induction.
Year Inducted: 1945 (Veterans Committee)
In the 1800s, the Boston Braves employed a pair of outfielders who were dubbed the Heavenly Twins. Both of these players were of Irish-Catholic decent from New England families who employed speed as a primary weapon. The two became good friends over the years and help popularize certain styles of play, such as the hit-and-run. Interestingly enough, both made it to the Hall of Fame. Having already covered Tommy McCarthy in many previous posts, it’s time to look at the other half of that dynamic duo-Hugh Duffy.
Year Inducted: 1959 (Veterans Committee)
The Dodgers were one of the original teams in the National League. This means that they’ve been around for a long time, and as such have had a lot of great players on their teams. As far as hitters go, the Dodgers have been blessed to have both Jackie Robinson and Duke Snider, along with players like Roy Campanella and Mike Piazza on their teams for long stretches of time. But, none of them hold the Dodgers’ records for hits, doubles or even total bases. No, the man that leads in many Dodger categories is Zack Wheat.
Year Inducted: 1963 (Veterans Committee)
The value of the pitching win has changed dramatically over the years. While wins stocked up over a career have some significance, it’s becoming more clear in the current era that a pitcher’s wins don’t necessarily dictate how good or poor a pitcher is. But, sometimes the win total can tell a lot, especially with the earlier pitchers. An excellent example of this would be John Clarkson.
Year Inducted: 1984 (BBWAA, ballot #4, 335/403)
Batting average is the one of the oldest stats kept in baseball. It’s quick, easy to calculate and easy to understand. If a player gets 5 hits in 10 at bats, he’s hitting .500 which means he gets a hit every other at bat. But, it doesn’t tell enough of the story. If a player hits .270, he can be more valuable than a player who hits .300, if the former is hitting for power and drawing walks. Sometimes, the BBWAA can temporarily forget that small detail, and players like Harmon Killebrew have to wait for induction when they should be first ballot inductees.
Year Inducted: 1969 (Veterans Committee)
Players always will try to find a way to bend the rules and get ahead of the game. Whether it be by scuffing the ball, corking a bat, or taking some new PED, players are super competitive and want to win at all costs. One of the more famous examples is the spitball, where a pitcher would apply some slippery substance to the ball to get it to move more. The pitch was outlawed in 1920, with the exception of a few pitchers who depended upon it for success. Already covered here were Burleigh Grimes and Red Faber, two pitchers that were allowed to continue throwing the spitball until the end of their careers. However, neither of them were the best at doing it. No, the best spitball pitcher was, without a doubt, Stan Coveleski.